nopin

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A highlight from my Road Service Area Meeting

When I walked into my Road Service Area meeting five minutes late today, I realized immediately after my introduction that I had walked in on a discussion of when to order plowing.

Apparently, it costs $5300 each time we order all the roads plowed, and we have an annual road maintenance budget of $60000, which also has to account for brush trimming and other road maintenance issues. Quite a few folks were annoyed that the roads hadn't been plowed immediately following Monday's storm. I, too, had been annoyed, but chalked it up to an unusual meteorological situation, the plow crews' likely being super busy, and our little neighborhood getting lower priority due to being outside of Fairbanks proper. Also, just a few months after another unusual meteorological situation--the ice storm--I had a better frame of mind for shrugging my shoulders and deciding to stay home for a day. Of course, I could afford to be patient because (1) I don't own a snowplow and had to shovel my own driveway by hand before I could go anywhere anyway, and (2) as a grad student, my work hours are self-set and extraordinarily flexible. So maybe it isn't fair for me to judge others who were anxious to get into town!

I was a little surprised (though I shouldn't have been, had I given it some thought) to realize that a human being (our neighborhood road service commissioner, who incidentally is a very, very nice man) has to call to order plowing. Having grown up in San Francisco, I am used to road maintenance happening in a more mentally remote way--it just happens without any human--certainly not myself--thinking about it and ordering it. But here was this man sitting before me and my other neighbors, informing us of when he ordered the plowing and on what he'd based this decision--namely, the then-forecast for more snow in the immediate future--and informing us to let him know if we disagreed with him, and were willing to blow more of our budget for more frequent plowing. He was just a phone call away.

He also pointed out, with some melancholy, how recent years seem to have brought more folks to the neighborhood that really seemed to expect they same life they'd have in the city--they wanted to be able to drive 2-wheel drive cars, and very quickly. So of course increasingly frequent plowing was being requested. I was a little surprised at that. I myself am urban-raised, but it never even crossed my mind to move to Fairbanks with a 2-wheel-drive car, let alone Ester! And when the road is so narrowed by berms of snow on either side of the road, I drive slower, instinctively. Yet here we were listening to complaints from born-and-bred Alaskans who insisted that the roads must be plowed as soon as an inch accumulated! That surprised me. Especially since Alaskans as a whole, and rural Alaskans in particular, are as a rule against tax spending. Oh well. That's my report for the day.

But here is a photo of me saying farewell to Norman, who was our family car when I was growing up and became my car when I graduated my undergrad. I sold him and bought a Subaru when I knew I was moving to Fairbanks, because hello?? I knew I'd have to drive on snow and ice!


By the way, Norman has been seen driving around my old 'hood in Mountain View, so I'm happy to report that he is alive and well and has not been stripped for parts!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weird weather continues

Yahoo continues to blare winter storm warnings from NOAA:

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AKST SATURDAY.

SNOW SHOWERS...SOME OF THEM BRIEFLY HEAVY...WILL CONTINUE TO MOVE ACROSS THE MIDDLE TANANA VALLEY THROUGH TONIGHT. ADDITIONAL SNOW AMOUNTS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES ARE EXPECTED. MUCH OF THE SNOW SHOWER ACTIVITY IS OCCURRING IN NARROW BANDS... SO SNOW AMOUNTS MAY VARY CONSIDERABLY.

AS OF LATE THIS MORNING...SNOW AMOUNTS OF 4 TO 6 INCHES WERE REPORTED IN AREAS NEAR FAIRBANKS. STORM TOTAL SNOW AMOUNTS OF 8 TO 12 INCHES ARE EXPECTED OVER MUCH OF THE MIDDLE TANANA VALLEY.

ON THE VALLEY FLOOR AND AT LOWER ELEVATIONS...SOUTHWEST WINDS 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS OCCASIONALLY AS HIGH AS 50 MPH WILL CONTINUE THROUGH THIS EVENING...THEN DIMINISH VERY SLOWLY. WINDS IN THESE AREAS ARE EXPECTED TO DIMINISH TO 15 TO 20 MPH BY MORNING. VISIBILITY MAY BE BRIEFLY REDUCED TO A HALF MILE OR LESS IN SOME AREAS BY HEAVY SNOW SHOWERS AND BLOWING SNOW.

OVER THE SUMMITS ABOVE TREE LINE...WINDS WILL BE NORTHWEST 35 TO 50 MPH TONIGHT...WITH POOR VISIBILITY IN SNOW SHOWERS AND BLOWING SNOW. HEAVY DRIFTING SNOW HAS MADE THE ROADS OVER THE SUMMITS IMPASSABLE.

THIS MORNINGS WEATHER BALLOON FLIGHT AT FAIRBANKS REPORTED WINDS OF ABOUT 64 MPH AT THE 850 MILLIBAR PRESSURE LEVEL... AT ABOUT 4700 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL...THIS MORNING. THIS IS THE SECOND HIGHEST WIND SPEED EVER RECORDED AT THIS PRESSURE LEVEL DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT WINTER WEATHER HAZARDS ARE EXPECTED. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITY VERY HAZARDOUS.

It's like Anchorage! Warmer, but windier, with snow piling up and blowing around. Snow is blowing sideways and making little twirly things like dust devils, only made of snow.

Millie Bunn is very moody about this. A gust goes one way through the trees, and she stamps her feet and hrrmphs. Another gust goes another way, and she flops out in contented bliss. What a weird wabbit!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ready for Round Two!!

"The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning on Thursday for 6 to 10 inches of snow in Fairbanks by noon Friday."

Yahoo weather sez, Severe Weather Alert

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN FAIRBANKS HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM LATE TONIGHT THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING.

SNOW WILL BEGIN AROUND MIDNIGHT TONIGHT AND CONTINUE THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING. THE TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATION WILL BE 4 TO 8 INCHES. ABOVE TREELINE THE WINDS WILL GUST TO 30 MPH WITH BLOWING
SNOW.

I am amused that Yahoo doesn't bat a digital eye when it forecasts -40s and -50s without end, but it's all ZOMG ALL CAPS AND Big Red Font when it's warm and comfy, but we're expecting a few inches of snow!

But just in case it does turn into a lot of snow, I'm going grocery shopping on my way home today!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snow! Snow! Snow!

I woke up Monday morning to silence. The sixth largest two-day snowfall in Fairbanks history meant no-one could leave for work until the snow was somehow tackled (shoveled, bladed, or driven over/through by those who have high-clearance vehicles).

The first thing I did was field calls that I was okay, and then call my mother and MP Outside to assure them that I was okay. It did occur to me that "lots of snow in Fairbanks" might not register as phenomenal in Outside press, but you never know. While on such calls, this moose walked by outside my window:

I had thought it was one that had been bedding down in my yard, so waved to her (she's my friend, you know). This was not the one. She took one look at me and bolted away. I was startled, and in my shock still hadn't processed that this moose was a stranger to me. I wondered how she might have gotten so frightened, and then saw a little brown hunchbacked troll running after her! Ayah! No wonder she was frightened! What the hell was it? It obviously meant her harm, to be chasing her like that! Then I realized that it was her calf. This was a different moose. This moose had a calf. In the meantime, I had been narrating this whole story to my friend B on the phone. I could hear his indulgent smile over the phone. "Arvay," he said gently. "Is it more likely that a little moose-killing troll is running around in the woods, or that the moose has a calf?"

Sigh

Anyway, here are photos of the snowpocalypse.

My isothermal snow collection device:


My oil tank:


View from the porch:


Charley, the Subaru, buried:


The first thing I shoveled was a path to the outhouse. Priorities!


Then I dug out Charley, the awesomest car ever. I misaligned his plug once what it was -40, so he hadn't been plugged in. I hadn't realized it and tried to start him anyway. He fired right up! Awesomest car ever, right?


Then I got crackin' on the driveway.


Made two paths--one to the car and one for walking from the house.


Two hours later, I was on to systematic progress straight up the driveway:


And after four hours, half a pint of ice cream, a carrot, four spoonfuls of peanut butter, a bowl of chicken soup, an apple, an orange, half an avocado, a quesadilla, and four cups of tea, my driveway was clear! Hell to the yeah!


Then we lost power, so I took my ice cream outside:

I always have my priorities in order!

Oh, and here is a photo from the UAF Chinese New Year dinner:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cloud cover, warmth, and snow



Pros:

* Warmth

* Fresh snow

* Happy dogs bouncing in said snow


Cons:

* Missing a potential awesome aurora.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Well-adapted paws

Every winter, the girls grow thick, nubby calluses on their paw pads and long, coarse fur in between them.





It protects them against both cold and abrasion. Autumn and Linden and their family have the most perfect toe hairs for our conditions because they are coarse and thus don't collect snowballs, as some dogs do. SEM scans reveal that their winter toe hairs are just as smooth and coarse as the outer guard hairs of their coats. Since they are protected against cold, abrasion, and snowballs, my girls don't need booties. Dogs that have their kind of protection only need booties for harsh conditions, pulling heavy loads, or long distances.

The downside is that they can't walk so well on tile, so they don't come with me to work during the winter. Surprisingly, they walk fine on our hardwood floors at home, and on ice.

Here they are cleaning and sharpening their teef:


It amazes me how vicious they can be with those teef and still cuddle with me. In general, I see dogs differently now than I used to when I lived in an urban area. In the San Francisco Bay Area, dogs are generally urbanized, friendly, and relatively isolated, each one to his own family. Here, dogs are more common and wild, and while they are affectionate with their own families, when they are out roaming the neighborhoods unsupervised, other parts of their personalities show themselves.

It's a common saying that "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners," but I disagree. While a bad owner can mess up a good dog, a good owner can't turn a bad one good. And I do think there are bad ones. I've seen firsthand and heard reliable stories of dogs displaying all of the highest traits of humans: generosity, nobility, courage, loyalty, selflessness, affection, wisdom, and discretion. If we are to give dogs credit for those things, as I must, then we must also allow that dogs may also display our worst traits: malice, spite, cruelty, and willful destruction.

I'm fortunate to have such good-natured dogs! I do know that 'obedience' is not exactly their strength. Even coming when I call them is a crap shoot. But their natural kindness and affection make them good pets nevertheless, and those are traits that no amount of training can give a dog.

Also, also (since my blog is all about disparate topics crammed into one post), Boeing is utilizing this butt-ass cold weather to do cold-weather testing on its planes. Cool, eh? See what I did there? Cool!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poor Moose!

First, she fell through thin ice, but luckily got rescued by some good Samaritans who happened to be nearby and have rope.

Fish and Game folks decried the effort and said they shouldn't have bothered as people shouldn't mess with nature (except for hitting them with cars and hunting them with guns and bows, right?).

Three weeks later, she was spotted, alive and well and with her calf, roaming around town with the rope from her rescue dangling around her neck.

Finally, Fish and Game tasered her in attempt to remove the rope. They failed.

Dear Fish and Game: Please leave her alone. Thank you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sad news from the Quest

Overflow (when ice cracks and liquid water flows on top) conditions and -50 temps are making the Yukon Quest unusually tough this year. Several mushers scratched at Eagle Summit in the village of Eagle. Hans Gatt fell into deep overflow, and Sebastian Schnuelle helped him pull his sled and dogs out of the water. Brent Sass lost a long-time, beloved wheel dog, Taco.

When dogs die on races, it makes me wonder if the mushers are too greedy and pushing their dogs too hard, but on the other hand, it is not uncommon for humans to drop dead at foot races, too. In fact, I saw a guy drop dead right in front of me on the Rock n Roll Marathon. I suspect these endurance races bring out otherwise dormant heart or neurological problems. And unfortunately, you don't know until you go. And with a lot of these people/dogs, I wonder if they might have died even younger if it hadn't been for all of the exercise!

RIP, Taco. :(

Updated to add:
Hans Gatt has scratched. He said "I had no choice; my fingers have level two frostbite. If not for Sebastian, it could have been much worse and all my dogs are OK. Twice this race, I was in situations that were out of my control; both times, other mushers helped me. I'm not used to that."

I say, bravo, man, for displaying the better part of valor. As I've said before, it's just a race. Not worth harm to man or beast.

In other news, another cold snap settled in over the weekend:


Here are a bunch of eye-glazing statistics about the weather, in classic Minor News fashion.

The difference between a cold snap in February, and one in December or January, is that we know this one won't stick around. The sun makes it warm up to at least -20F during the daytime, and once you have that kind of temperature change, convection keeps things moving. It's not like deep winter, when a cold snap can settle down like a blanket and keep us in the -40s for weeks.

Here is Linden anticipating the last bite of my carrot:
video

Friday, February 11, 2011

Doggie Diet

So I'm afraid I've been a bit overly successful in putting weight on the girls.

Autumn came to me at 37 pounds. I was told to put about 3 on her. But she now weighs in at a whopping 49. If I were to do the same in proportion, I'd be around 160 pounds (I think it's a fair comparison because she is a smaller, lean-shaped dog, and I am a smaller, lean-shaped person). That is totally unacceptable, especially in a senior dog.

Linden came to me at 39 pounds. I was told to make her lose 2 or so, which she promptly did, but then turned around and gained 7, for a current weight of 44.

I've changed nothing about their diet or activity level since they've come to me. Linden's definitely dropped fat and gained muscle, and I'm comfortable with her shape. Autumn, however, has definitely gained both muscle and fat, and while the former is great, the latter is not so much.

So the diet plan is:

1) A switch to the senior version of their kibble. At almost 12, they are definitely seniors now. And no amount of my denial and melancholy will change that. It's lower in fat and higher in fiber.

2) Tiny biscuits, obviously intended for chihuahua-sized dogs. LOL.

3) Fewer cheese snacks. :(

4) In compensation, they can have more carrots, and all the moose marbles out of the yard they want, and I won't yell at them for it. Which is probably good for older dogs, anyway, seeing as moose eat tons and tons of willow bark, which is a natural source of aspirin. A snack that protects against achy joints! Yay!

5) I've also switched Linden to a Manmat distance harness, which is adjustable so will fit her for a range of weights. The last time I stuffed her into her old X-back, which had used to fit her as if it were custom-made, she looked like a sausage in a casing. Autumn's long already been using a Manmat, since she detests X-back harnesses, and hangs her head and droops her ears and gets this cringing, put-upon, "woe-is-me" look if you put one on her.

And that's the conclusion of the girls' annual exam. In addition to the regular commentary from my crisply efficient, no-nonsense Austrian vet regarding Autumn's weight, they got updated rabies and distemper/parvo shots. I remember when rabies shots used to be annual, and now they are every three years! My vet says that the vaccine is essentially the same; all that's changed is the new research showing that it protects them for three years. What we don't get is heart worm preventative, or flea/tick treatment. No such problems in Interior Alaska!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fuzzy wuzzy photos

While some dogs are running 100 miles a day, some other dogs are running 3, and spending the rest of their day doing this:


Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, sez, "Lower your hand with that spinach in it, so at least I have a fighting chance!"


Oh no! Millie is listing!


The girls as I get ready for bed. After I get into bed, Linden vacates for her own. Autumn sleeps with me. It's interesting that they have been so carefully bred to be the most excellent sled dogs, and yet their most important function to me is as teddy bears. Skijoring and hauling firewood around are really just side benefits.


Linden sez, "Put the flashy thing down and come cuddle with me!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Best. Cheese. Sammich. Evar.

Friends, a wood stove is a true grill. Add a cast iron trivet, and yay! Grilled cheese! Tuna melts! Cheese!

Patience, plum blossom! Both sides must be adequately toasted, and the cheese suitably melted!


Cheese closeup:


Add a tomato, and pickled beans and garlic from last summer--perfection!


Okay so I've just blogged about a cheese sandwich. Thusly goes the exciting life of a grad student. :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Burbot party Photos

Last night we had our celebration of cod.

Ways to prepare burbot:

1) Marinated with a lot of paprika and grilled in foil:


Served with slaw:


2) With veggies in soup or in chowdah (if the chef is from New England, it's not chowder; it's chowdah):


3) Battered and fried:


which of course is mostly gone before you can even get out the camera:


Three kinds of soup!


The chef at work:


A friendly crowd upstairs:


And downstairs:


Edited on Jan 3, 2013 to add: Recently this page has had dozens of hits from a Minnesota fishing site with people looking for burbot recipes. Hi, Minnesotans! I feel like we are long-lost cousins, we share so much in common--moose and bears and berries and fish and man-eating mosquitoes and ice and snow and snow and more snow. Do you get to see aurora in Minnesota?

Oh, and there was a pretty good aurora last night:








Saturday, February 5, 2011

Behind the ol' homestead

What a beautiful morning!







Oh, and best of luck to the Quest mushers, who started today. Keep fingers, toes, and paws crossed for an injury-free race!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Burbot

A few friends of mine have, using augers, drilled holes into the 4-foot thick ice of the Tanana river and put lines in for burbot. This has been their most successful fishing yet.

C and his burbot:


P and his burbot:


B and his burbot:


This weekend, they are hosting a burbot party to experiment with techniques to cook this hideous, but reputedly tasty, fish. Yes, we friends will be gathering in the name of cod.

I'll also be skiing in our current warmth and newly fallen snow. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Year Photos

Sam with her parents, warming themselves by the wood stove:


Trout that Sam's papa caught from Chena Lakes:


Preparing the trout:


Is that a perfect roast chicken? Dayum, I am impressed with myself!


My nian-gao. It tasted better than it looked. Per the recipe I found via google, I baked it instead of steaming it, so the top was dry. But it was pretty good!


I always put my guests to work:




Not a bad spread!


Me with my dowgs:


Our little group. My neighborhood is regularly visited by these Mormons on their mission.